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Matthew 7:7-11

Pray with confidence that God will respond as your Father.

Tom Faletti

June 7, 2024

Matthew 7:7-11 Pray expectantly


Overall, what is your initial impression of this passage?  What is it saying?


In verses 7-8, what is the attitude Jesus is calling us to have in prayer?


The tense of the verbs in these verses is the present imperative active (Interlinear Bible. Bible Hub,, which means that they would be better translated as: Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking; or continually ask, continually seek, continually knock.  We don’t have this tense in English, so our translators settle for “ask, seek, knock,” but the tense in Greek means to continually do that thing.


The Greek verbs that are used in verses 7-8 indicate that Jesus is not talking about asking just once.  The verbs actually mean “keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.”  How does that affect your understanding of this passage?  What does this tell you?


In verses 9-10, Jesus offers two images of what human parents would or would not do, and then uses them as analogies to God.  What would human parents not do, and why?

To an innocent and undiscerning child, a large stone might look like a small loaf of bread.  A small fish might look like a snake or eel.  If a child asked for bread or fish, a parent would not give them a stone or a snake; that would be malicious.  Almost all parents love their children and would responding lovingly, not cruelly or callously.


In verse 11, Jesus then compares the parents to God.  What does he say about “your Father in heaven”?


By describing our prayers as like a child seeking what he or she needs from a parent, Jesus is telling us about our relationship with God who is our Father.  What does this tell us about how we can approach God in prayer?


Jesus says even human parents, who are “evil” (NRSV) or “wicked” (NABRE), wouldn’t give their child a stone if they asked for bread.  What is he trying to tell us by using that word “evil” or “wicked” to contrast us with God?


God, who is all good, will not give us fake gifts or false gifts.  God will only give us what is good, what is consistent with His perfect love.  This means God will not always give us what we ask.


Even when we ask for good things, God does not always give us what we ask for.   How do you make sense of that reality in the context of this passage?


It is often said that God answers our prayers in one of three ways: Yes, No, or Not Yet.  If the answer is Yes, we receive the blessing and move forward.  If the answer is No, we accept the answer and move on.  If the answer is Not Yet, we wait patiently, continuing to pray and trust that God has our best interests at heart.


God cannot always give us what we ask for, because sometimes what we ask for would not actually be what is best for us, and God would not give us a stone even if we thought it was good and asked for it.


How have you experienced God answering your prayers with a Yes?


How have you experienced God answering your prayers with a No?


How have you experienced God answering your prayers with a Not Yet?


There is a fourth way that God answers prayer.  Sometimes, after praying for a period of time, we come to realize that what we truly want and need is not what we were asking for, but something else.  In this case, God has answered our prayer by changing our heart and our desires.


When our heart is aligned with God, it opens the door for God to work in new ways that might not previously been feasible.  But that requires us to be willing to more forward according to God’s ways, not our ways.


How have you experienced your requests to God changing as you kept asking God for something?


There is a fifth way that God answers prayer: with a “Not That But This.”  God sometimes gives us something that is a blessing but not the blessing we sought.  As William Barclay says: “God will always answer our prayers, but He will answer them in His way, and His way will be the way of perfect wisdom and of perfect love” (Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, pp. 275-276).


A relevant quote that has been attributed to many people over the years is: “When one door closes another always opens, but we usually look so long, so intently, and so sorrowfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened” (see Garson O’Toole, “When One Door Closes Another Opens, But Often We Look So Long Upon the Closed Door That We Do Not See the Open Door,” Quote Investigator, 3 Dec. 2018,, who concludes that the source is unknown, although part may have come from Johann Paul Friedrich Richter).


How have you experienced God answering a prayer not by giving you what you asked for but by opening a door to something else?  Did you find it easy or hard to recognize that God was answering your prayer by giving you that alternative?



The relationship we have with God, our Father, is far more important than anything we ask God to do.  Are there ways that your prayer life might change if your prayers were consistently founded on the relationship you have with God as Father and not so much on what you want?


How does this passage help you pray to God with confidence?


Having looked at this entire passage in detail, what does it say to you?



Take a step back and consider this:


Sometimes what we ask for is not evil but misses the point.  My grandfather, when he was in his 60s, told me that when he was young, he had asked God for three things: a beautiful wife, a beautiful car, and a big house.  With his 8th-grade education and hard-scrabble upbringing, those probably seemed like big asks.  But he was a hard worker, a sociable person who was good at understanding what other people wanted and how to bring people together, and a wise man about many things despite his meager formal education.  He advanced in the steel mill from blue collar to white collar, then left to become a very successful insurance agent.  He married early and eventually obtained a big house (relative to others in his community) and the fancy car he wanted.


But he told me about his early prayer not boastfully but ruefully, as if to show the foolishness of the request.  When he told me this, he was spending most of his time in one room of the big house, sitting next to the bed where his wife lay 23 hours a day.  Her life had been sapped by chronic health problems, but she had all the time in the world to carp at him as he sat there.  The fancy car mostly sat unused in the garage.


People sometimes say: Be careful what you ask for.  But that is too cryptic to catch the point.  It isn’t what you ask for, but why, that matters.  For whom are you asking, and to what end?


For whom are you most earnest prayers delivered?  To what end do you ask God to bless you?


How would your prayers change, if you were only allowed to pray for things that you knew would help advance God's loving work in the world?




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Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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